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Propel a Berlin-based HR-tech startup that developed a managed services platform for communities and talent has snaps €2.5 million in a funding round.

The funding round was led by Amsterdam-based No Such Ventures including participation from APX (Axel Springer & Porsche), Golden Egg Check, and Future of Learning Fund.

The HR-tech startup was founded in 2020 by Sunkanmi Ola, Seun Owolabi, and Abel Agoi. It creates tools that tech talent communities use to address their last-mile issues, such as connecting their members to employment opportunities, financial services (loans, asset financing), and other perks and benefits. Propel provides this “value-stack” as a single platform that communities may use to better serve their constituents.

Propel collaborates with over 100 tech communities serving over 400,000 members in 15 different countries. Highlights include Niyo Network, a UK-based organization that runs Web2 and Web3 boot camps for underrepresented women, SheCodeAfrica, one of Africa’s largest female-focused communities, Ingressive for Good, an open community that annually trains thousands of people in tech, Datafest, People In Product, Friends of Figma, and various Google Developer Groups. In Propel’s ecosystem, communities differ greatly in terms of size, location, gender distribution, tech stack, etc.

Communities are the foundation of any ecosystem, according to Sunkanmi Ola, co-founder and CEO of Propel. Tech communities, particularly in high-growth regions like Africa and among underrepresented groups, have mushroomed in their thousands to fill the enormous gaps in inclusion, education, and capacity building. They find talent, develop it, and mentor it; host hackathons, events, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities; and react to global trends more quickly than traditional institutions can.

“However, they are always looking for new ways to help their members and improve their financial sustainability while still striving to meet their impact objectives. That is a really difficult task. However, Propel enables communities to concentrate on what they are best at by providing them with access to a plug-in platform that addresses their final mile. Propel is aiming to tangibly influence the growth of millions of individuals on a scale that has never been seen before,” Ola added, “thanks to communities’ capacity to expand and interact more deeply at the local level.”

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Propel connects to the different talent pools within these tech communities, stretching across multiple skill sets, from software development to design, data science to no-code, and other digital transformation talents, in exchange for providing last-mile infrastructure. This pipeline is made available to multinational corporations under a paradigm referred to as “Community as a Service.” Propel has collaborated with organizations including Porsche, Mercedes, Orange Telecoms, Farfetch, and Stepstone, as well as several startups and scaleups, particularly in Europe, for a variety of reasons, including hiring talent, co-creating hackathons for certain communities, and developing DEI initiatives.

“At Propel, we advocate for more ethical and sustainable methods of hiring and creating talent pipelines. In place of employing opportunistic techniques like headhunting or poaching, we actively engage in ecosystems and use specialized technologies to identify the top people within local communities. And when we place people in positions, we share our earnings with the community to which they belong, and that money is then put back into the programs and efforts required to attract more people to the tech industry. In conclusion, Propel is the place where ambitious businesses go to find the talent that best suits their requirements and crowd-solve tech problems while also doing good,” said Co-founder and Head of Strategy Seun Owolabi.

The 2020-founded HR-tech startup has funded more than €3 million to date and was a recipient of the Google Black Founders Fund in Europe last summer. With the additional financing, the company plans to expand its community platform, provide new tools to its value stack, and strengthen its ecosystem of communities.

According to Sophie Heijenberg, an investor at No Such Ventures, who was speaking about the financing, “Propel’s distinctive, community-focused approach to promoting the open talent economy sets them apart and is a good addition to the Future of Work category. We are confident in their plan and eager to work with them on this growing journey.

Mariama Boumanjal, Google for Startups Black Founders Fund Manager Europe and Africa says, “Everyone must contribute to the development of technology if we want it to benefit all users. Inspiring is Propel’s inclusive strategy for addressing the issue of the world’s skills deficit. We are happy to have helped them via our program and look forward to seeing what they do next.”

Image Credit: Propel

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